One thing that I've noticed that stands out are reader reactions to books and authors. Those who visit my blog due to links from other blogs, based on the conversations that I've had in Comments section here, seem to prefer standalone, smaller volumes for their books. Many of the books that I've investigated as a result seem to bear this out. But on the forums, in particular Westeros, wotmania, SFF World, and to a lesser degree Fantasy Bookspot, the "average reader" seems to be wanting more and more multi-volume epic fantasy doorstoppers.
For example, in this thread over at Westeros, a reader says this in regards to Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series:
Even the editing is subjective and a matter of taste. I can't comment as I just read Erikson's first and part of the second, but the biggest flaw of the first book is that it is too short.Interesting, since I'm of the opinion that such books, interesting as they are in pieces, tend to be too long, without a tightly-written narrative. Too much exposition, although short epics tend to be viewed as an oxymoron, I know.
Related to this are the various "recommendation" threads that you'll see at these places. Almost without exception, this are "more of the same" recommendations and not recommendations for people to shift gears and to try something completely different. There is almost a meme-like quality to requests for new books now. For example, someone says, "Well, I've finished Martin's last book, what are other books that I ought to try?" Almost invariably, you'll see these names mentioned: R. Scott Bakker (and as much as Scott and I are good friends, this isn't about the personal merits of any of these books here), Steven Erikson, and more recently Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, and sometimes Patrick Rothfuss or Brian Ruckley.
Is there much in the way of differences between them? To some degree, yes, but ultimately each is a multi-volume effort, spanning 3 to 10 volumes (planned) in length, each set in a cod-medieval setting. I like epic fantasies on occasion and I do agree that most of these authors have their merits (despite whatever mischief I might start up with Abercrombie on occasion), but if (wo)man shall not live by bread alone, neither should the reader live by just one style alone. Brain rot and all that nasty gunkiness, you know.
Seriously though, there is a sense of insularity that takes place on a great many of these forums. "Literary" or "Mainstream" fiction generally is either verboten or is looked at strangely; it is a weird beast to them. A couple of days ago, one of the moderators at Westeros compiled the results of a month-long reader "poll" as to which were the readers' five favorite SF/F writers. The results are hardly surprising for the first 10-15. It is around #15 that one begins to see which forum regulars read outside just one particular genre box (and yes, I was quite pleased to see that Jorge Luis Borges received a single vote more than Robert Jordan. I am that petty). But on the whole, the vast majority of books mentioned were for multi-volume secondary-world/epic fantasies.
The inverse seems to be true for blogs that are not strictly tied to the blogger's interactions with a particular set of forums. If I go read the comments on say Fantasy Magazine, the concerns, discussions, and whatnot often differ substantially from what transpires on a forum. I'm more likely to see a post on I Distrust Female Authors on a forum than I am to see a discussion of gender roles/expectations in a reflective, considered fashion. Blogs are different beasts from forums and since by their very nature are person-centric rather than community-centric, there tends to be a greater sense of variety. But yet it is interesting how few blogs I visit where one is likely to say, "Ya know, Steve Erickson and Steven Erikson both have their strong suits and I'd highly recommend both for the reader to consider." More often or not, LJs, blogs not kept by forum regulars, and author blogs tend to remain outside the Pale as far as forum regulars are and for the most part, the inverse applies as well.
I have no axes to grind here; if anything, I mostly understand that people have different tastes and they gravitate towards those tastes. I just cannot help but to wonder if in a hypothetical conversation between a die-hard epic fantasy-loving forum regular and a "literary fantasy"-preferring blogger there might be "translation" difficulties. If I struggle at times to explain why I believe epic fantasy characterization can be improved and strengthened by streamlining over increased exposition, perhaps it might stand that it's a more general difference in world-views on such matters.
But what do I know? Both Erickson and Erikson in my opinion deserve some consideration, but who reading this has ever read anything by either/both of them? Or for that matter, who wants to consider/debate Jennifer Stevenson's alteration of Arthur C. Clarke's maxim: "Any magic with sufficient internal consistency is indistinguishable from technology." I read that one today and she hit something that I've been wondering about all along when it comes to plot/setting - why explain every damn thing to the most minute of details?
Just something else for my achy self to consider as I get ready for bed in a few minutes.